September 28, 2014 caravaggio, diario/journal, italy

searching for caravaggiosearching for caravaggio – 1st entry
epilogue-3 – italy 2014

Sept-17 053AIn Ortigia, a neighborhood of Siracusa, we saw our first Caravaggio – Seppellimento di Santa Lucia – The Burial of St. Lucy.

And this began our search.

Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio supposedly painted 4 large images in Sicily – Burial of Saint Lucy, Syracuse; Raising of Lazarus and Adoration of the Shepherds, Messina; Nativity with St. Francis and St. Lawrence, Palermo. For centuries the Nativity was displayed in the Oratory of San Lorenzo, but on October 18, 1969 it was stolen from the church and has not been seen since. The most popular rumor suggests that it was taken by members of the local mafia.

We saw two more in Naples.

We saw the Sette Opere di Misericordia – the Seven Works of Mercy and La Flagellazione di Cristo – The Flagellation of Christ. The Flagellation is in the Museo di Capodimonte and the floor it’s on is being reorganized, but they opened it for 15 minutes so patrons could see the famous painting. We all made a bee-line to the last room on the floor. The painting is at the end of a long hallway in a dark room illuminated by Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro.

In Rome, we say five more.

We were walking back to the apartment and Sarah, who was reading the guide-book, discovered that we were in front of the church of San Luigi dei Francesi, and that it had Caravaggio’s triptych of St. Matthew: Vocazione di san Matteo – Calling of St. Matthew, L’ispirazione di san Matteo – The Inspiration of St. Matthew (the above image), and the Martirio di san Matteo – Martyrdom of St. Matthew.

The next day, we took the subway north to Piazza del Popolo and there in the church of Santa Maria del Popolo we saw the Conversione di san Paolo – Conversion on the Way to Damascus and the Crocifissione di san Pietro – Crucifixion of Saint Peter.


October 4, 2014 caravaggio, diario/journal, italy

the XIV station – jesus is laid in the tombsearching for caravaggio – 2nd entry
epilogue-4 – italy 2014

roberto-ferriWe drove into Noto and parked. Walking the narrow streets towards the piazza and the cathedral, we had no idea where we’d come out. We ended up on a platform that gave us an amazing view of the steps, the cathedral and the piazza. And coming down the grand staircase, was a funeral cortege. We waited for the procession and the hearse to pull away before we made our way to the duomo. Once inside the Cattedrale di Noto – La Chiesa Madre di San Nicolò, we noticed that a crew was getting ready to set up for a wedding. What a strange juxtaposition; what strange scheduling.

On March 13, 1996, a large part of the cathedral collapsed. The reconstruction was a complex process, made all the more onerous by the importance and high visibility of the cathedral and the city, the so-called capital of Sicilian Baroque architecture.

Inside we found a bright, beautiful modern building. What were most surprising were the Stations of the Cross. First they were paintings instead of the standard reliefs that line the walls of most churches and second they were very modern. But the biggest surprise was the composition – the male characters were almost nude and had very modern bodies. I had never seen such a rendition of the traditional fourteen Stations. The image on the left is the XIV Station – Jesus is Laid in the Tomb. The artist is Roberto Ferri. He was born in Taranto, but lives in Rome. He works in the style of Caravaggio. (Another juxtaposition – in an ancient Baroque church, the works of a modern painter using baroque techniques.)


October 13, 2014 caravaggio, diario/journal

  the X station – jesus is stripped of his garmentssearching for caravaggio – 3rd entry

station10                and carrie is stripped of her humanity

I’ve been watching “Homeland” and the new episodes present the main character as about her career, about her leadership, about her drive, about her ambition. Looking back at previous seasons it is now clear that the Brody character gave Carrie her compassion. But without Brody, Carrie is truly The Drone Queen – the title of the first episode of the new season. At one point she almost drowns her baby daughter, because she is a distraction, a pawn in the Queen’s way.

The connection between Showtime’s Carrie and Ferri’s paintings – Via Crucis – came from the idea of stripping away what prevent us from seeing. In “Homeland,” Carrie is stripped of her humanity and we see the robot; in Ferri’s Stations of the Cross, Christ is stripped of his divinity and we see the man.

I am very curious about Ferri’s commission for Via Crucis. When I saw the paintings in the cathedral in Noto, I couldn’t believe they were in a church. (The photograph on the left is of the 10th Station. Each painting is in a gold-leaf frame.) The images are raw, almost erotic and the Christ has a gym-rat body. Such an interpretation of the Way of the Cross would never be allowed in rabid, conservative America. (Ferri’s Caravaggesque style straddles conventions. But New-World Catholics don’t even know who Caravaggio is, let alone understand a modern artist who paints in the Baroque style.) Catholicism in the west is about violent opposition to abortion and gay-marriage; most American Catholics know little about empathy for the less fortunate or about their Church’s artistic patronage. But then, they too have been stripped of their legacy, their righteousness and what we see is their obsession to punish. Maybe, they would welcome Ferri’s paintings, after-all there’s a lot of S&M references in them.


October 27, 2014 caravaggio, diario/journal

       did judas iscariot have god on his sidesearching for caravaggio – 4th entry


I’ve been listening it Dylan’s “With God on Our Side” and
the second-to-last verse:
through many a dark hour
i’ve been thinkin’ about this
that jesus christ
was betrayed by a kiss
but i can’t think for you
you’ll have to decide
whether judas iscariot
had god on his side.

brought me to Caravaggio’s painting.

The Cattura di Cristo nell’orto – The Taking of Christ – was painted in Rome at the end of 1602. (The Italian title is great, full of alliteration and hard vowels.) Breaking with past traditions, Caravaggio offered a new perspective of the betrayal narrative; all emphasis is directed on the action perpetrated by Judas and the guards on an overwhelmed Jesus. The fleeing disciple on the left is John and the lantern holder on the right is Caravaggio himself at the age of thirty one.

The flight of the terrified John contrasts with the entrance of the artist; it seems that Caravaggio is making the point that even a sinner, one thousand years later, has a better understanding of Christ than one of his own apostles. Two of the more puzzling details of the painting are the fact that the heads of Jesus and John seem to visually meld together; and the prominent presence of the arresting officer’s highly polished, metal-clad arm.

The painting is in Dublin in the National Gallery of Art.


October 29, 2014 caravaggio, diario/journal

where in the u.s.a. is caravaggiosearching for caravaggio – 5th entry

The map is from the website – – Caravaggio Gallery. (List of thumbnails is clockwise beginning bottom left in Texas.)


I Bari
The Cardsharps
Fort Worth, Texas

San Giovanni nel deserto
St. John in the Wilderness
Kansas City, Missouri

Marta e Maddalena
Martha and Mary Magdalene
Detroit, Michigan

1.Concerto di giovani
2.Suonatore di liuto
3.La Negazione di Pietro
4.Sacra Famiglia con
San Giovanni Battista

1.The Musicians,
2.Lute Player,
3.Denial of St. Peter,
4.Holy Family with St. John the Baptist
New York City, New York

San Francesco in estasi
St. Francis in Ecstacy
Hartford, Connecticut

Sacrificio d’Isacco
Sacrifice of Issac
Princeton, New Jersey

La Crocifissione di Sant’Andrea
Crucifixion of St. Andrew
Cleveland, Ohio